|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
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Using the Collection
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in one series in roughly chronological order (and numerical order by sermon).
Scope and Contents
This collection contains typed and handwritten sermons and sermon notes, many of which refer to contemporary events. Most of the sermons are tied together with string and include a speaking outline. Durkee stored his sermons in brown paper wrappers marked with the sermon name, number and date(s) and location(s) delivered (Durkee frequently re-worked and re-used sermons). The dates on the finding aid correspond to the first time the sermon was delivered. All folders contain complete texts unless indicated as "Sermon Notes." Durkee titled most of his sermons and began to title regularly in 1906. Titles ending with an ellipsis in the finding aid are drawn from the first line of an untitled sermon. Durkee made some notes and wrote drafts on the reverse of Howard letters and flyers, and printed material from pastorates in Maine, Massachusetts and New York. A small number of the sermons include letters from congregants and colleagues. These unusual items are noted in the finding aid. Durkee saved newspaper clippings relevant to his sermon's themes and these appear throughout the collection. In addition to purely religious themes, Durkee spoke on contemporary topics and on art, science, and literature in relation to Christianity. Topics include education, the Great Depression, labor, Nazism, politics, racism, temperance, United States history, and World Wars I and II. The following numbered sermons are not in this collection and were not in the original donation. Other archival repositories may contain some of these: #37, 585, 856, 881, 882, 979, 1012, 1016, 1048, 1049, 1053, 1057, 1059, 1061, 1065, 1068, 1070, 1072, and 1084. A note in Sermon 946 provides this key to handwritten symbols: > = "of the" \ = "of" / = "the" U = "in
Burke Library record group:
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
The following boxes are located offsite: Box 1-16. Please note that requests for use of boxes held in offsite storage must be made three business days in advance.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, James Stanley Durkee sermons, 1897-1947, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
W. W. Rockwell, UTS librarian, received James Stanley Durkee's sermons from Richmond, Virginia in 1931. The papers arrived folded, labeled, and packed in gun boxes that bore the label of a Brooklyn storage firm where Durkee appears to have deposited the sermons during his lifetime.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Durkee's original system, reflected in his numbering, is maintained in this collection. The resulting order is almost, but not entirely, chronological. Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Acidic items were separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. The finding aid was created by April Holm in 2009, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2023.
2023-01-04 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
James Stanley Durkee was a Baptist and Congregationalist minister who served in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. He was the last white president of Howard University (1918-1926) and presided over Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn, New York, from 1927-1941. The majority of his sermons deal with purely religious themes, but many touch upon contemporary topics as well as the relation of science, art, and literature to Christianity. Durkee was born to James and Elizabeth (Dennis) Durkee in Carelton, Nova Scotia on November 21, 1866. In 1897 he received a bachelor's degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and on August 4 1897, married Florence Marion Robbins, of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Durkee was ordained as a Free Baptist minister in 1898 and that year began his first appointment at the Free Baptist Church in Auburn, Maine, where he served until 1901. From 1901 to 1909, Durkee served as a pastor at the Free Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts. During these years he received a master's degree from Bates College and Cobb Divinity School and a PhD from Boston University. From 1909 to 1918 he headed the South Congregational Church in Brockton, Massachusetts. In 1918, Durkee accepted the presidency of Howard University. While he succeeded in securing major federal funding, he also alienated prominent black scholars and restructured the liberal arts and professional programs to concentrate authority in the office of the president. In 1925, dissatisfied students led an eight-day campus wide strike. Following the protests, W. E. B. DuBois ran a series of critical editorials in The Crisis, accusing Durkee of treating students and black educators at Howard "as a subordinate caste." Durkee resigned in 1926. Following his resignation, James Stanley Durkee accepted a call from Plymouth Church (Congregational) in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. In 1934, Durkee oversaw the consolidation of the congregations of Plymouth Church and the Church of the Pilgrims, which became known as Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. Durkee's interest in Plymouth Church history is reflected in lectures on founder Henry Ward Beecher and in his arranging a return visit from former slave Rose Ward Hunt, whose freedom Beecher and his congregation purchased. Durkee retired in 1941 and died in Hyattsville, Maryland on September 28, 1951. James Stanley Durkee authored eight books on Christian themes and wrote poetry throughout his life. He presented sermons regularly on the WJZ "Friendly Hour" radio program in the 1920's and 30's and was active in numerous Christian organizations and the prohibition movement.